I’d hoped to do a better job of juggling cooking in preparation for a weekend with visitors and putting together a blog post for Christina’s Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day meme, but I have failed – so apologies, this is a little rushed!

I am more than usually obsessed with foliage at the moment, thanks to the very (very!) late and capricious autumn we are “enjoying” here. I have been prowling around the garden willing various plants to either hurry up and colour up before the next storm rips the leaves from their branches before they get the chance (I’m talking to you, black elder), or to please hang on a little longer (my acer). If I look hard enough there is quite a lot of colour, and not all of it from shrubs and trees. The grass Hakonechloa macra is a must-have plant for me, I love its graceful form, and it has the added bonus of lovely autumn colour.

I am really looking forward to the cotinus growing taller, it already makes a big impact as it starts to change, but is currently barely taller than the remains of the aster in front of it – I can see the shape of things to come though:

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal-Purple'

A plant currently failing to fulfill its promise is my Eonymus europeus ‘Red Cascade’, which I planted in the front garden in the fence border to provide another vivid dose of Autumn colour. Today, for the first time, I noticed a slight colour change in one leaf. So maybe I will have a bit of a show.

Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade'

But its not all about autumn colour. I love the dynamism that deciduous plants provide, the vivid marking of the seasons, but with such an exposed front garden I also wanted dynamism from movement, so have lots of grasses and sedges. The Hakonechloa mentioned above is deciduous, but the rest are all evergreen, the idea being that they provide waves of movement in my windy front garden year-round. I also have quite a lot of other evergreen plants that, at this time of year, really start to come in to their own, either because they proved a striking focal point in and of themselves, or because combined with other plants they give me an interesting tapestry of texture and colour.

These plants and combinations of plants are making me very happy at the moment, even on a dull day, and most should only get better with time – the shrubs, for instance, are still very small, but eventually plants like the pittosporum will be providing me with much-needed privacy and shelter as well as pretty leaves.

Some things are surprising me. The mature black elder I inherited is still not showing any signs of changing leaf colour, and I begin to wonder if it will at all this year, it has already lost half its leaves. To be honest, I love the leaves so much that I will forgive it if it never becomes shades of orange and red.

sambucus nigra

By contrast, the Photinia davidiana ‘Palette’, which I wasn’t expecting to give me autumn colour, is adding pretty coral shades to the variegation. I’m not complaining, I am happy to have found it here, as I doubt it is a plant I would have chosen left to myself but I am starting to really like it. It is semi-evergreen, and last year lost pretty much all its leaves in the harsh spring, so I have no real idea of what to expect this coming spring.


I have lots of Acanthus mollis, again all inherited, and either in the wrong place (front garden blocking the view of the sea) or mildewy (a large clump in the back garden). But when we removed the leylandii there was a sudden eruption of two new clumps, in deep shade, both of which are incredibly healthy, with dark glossy leaves. A very nice surprise, and fortunately both can happily stay right where they are, whether they flower or not.

acanthus mollis

The other leaves I am delighting in are those of the self-sown phacelia and californian poppies, promising plenty of colour again next year in the park border in the back garden. Hopefully the borage will self-seed too.

phacelia seedlings

californian poppy seedlings

Well, that’s a quick romp through the foliage that is making my heart sing at the moment, do check out Christina’s GBFD post and the links in the comments for more leafy goodness.

42 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day November 2013

  1. I love that you have autumn colour and also all that beautiful grey foliage and grasses. I think the colour of that Phormium is outstanding, too. (Being able to hover over the images in the collage and see the names of the plants is a great help, so thanks.)

    1. HI Lyn, glad you appreciate the hover facility, I realised that I get frustrated when people don’t supply the “alt” text for a photo so that you get that information, so I determined to get more disciplined about it as well. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about all the silvery foliage as well as the autumn colour, but Christina’s garden convinced me it should work and so far I am really happy with how it is turning out.

    1. I know what you mean Charlie, I become a fall colour junky, hoovering it up from other people’s blogs and photos even when I don’t have ti around me.

  2. Nice selection Janet. I know you’re not usually a fan of variegated plants so was surprised to see Photinia Palette then I read you inherited it. Thinking about planting Cotinus agai, it’s a great all rounder garden plant isn’t it?

    1. The photinia, when it has a good covering of leaves, is rather subtle and pretty – my issue with it is that it tends to look straggly, but I a hoping some tlc in the form of a thick mulch will encourage better beahviour. Mind you, it would be another plant from my enormous wishlist I could squeeze in if I decided to oust it! I think cotinus is a wonderful shrub, particularly when cut hard back each year for those wonderful leaves.

  3. Lovely colours and shapes. Your hope that borage will self-seed made me laugh. Since the first year that I grew some from seed to plant in the vegetable patch, it renews itself thousandfold now throughout the garden, turning up in every pot that I give to my Mum, and threatening to take over the vegetable beds if left to its own devices.

    1. Hi Sara, I know, when I originally planted the borage it was in the hope/belief that it would gently self seed around from now on, but I am so unused to things successfully self seeding it takes a lot of faith, hence the thrill of seeing the other seedlings pop back up! I know the front garden is perfect for self seeding because the soil is so free draining, but I did want that same dynamism and potential of the unexpected in the back garden too. I already know I am going to be weeding nasturtiums out for the rst of my time here, they are clearly here to stay, and so far seem to have no intention of dying back either!!

  4. The plant the doesn’t seem to colour up for me is hydrangea quercifolia. Last year it kept green leaves right through winter – must remember to go and have a latest look.

    1. Hi Sue, it was years before my Hydrangea quercifolia started colouring up well in my previous garden – in fact it was a phenomena I only got to witness once! Hopefully yours will start putting on the fireworks in a year or two.

  5. You have such a lot of different foliage, with your grasses you must be getting lots of movement with them waving in the wind! I’ve just had a look at my black leaved elder and no, it doesn’t change colour except that it seems to go to green as the black fades.

    1. Hi Pauline, the grasses are beginning to work really well in the front garden, I love being able to see the wind in the ripples its passing causes. As for the sambucus, I believe the one in the back garden that I inherited is ‘Black lace’, which is one of the ones recommended for its fiery autumn colour!! Maybe next year…

  6. You certainly do have some rich textures Janet, and I love those glossy Acanthus leaves. Sadly not hardy enough for here. The pictures of your cotinus again have made me think about whether I should plant one. I like the leaves more than its eccentric flowers and have just read on wikipedia that they can be coppiced to produce tall, flowerless shoots… food for thought! Have a great weekend with your guests!

    1. Hi Cathy, I love cotinus, I am a sucker for pretty much any plant with dark purple leaves, and yes coppicing works really well, I have always done it to mine, though this one is getting to grow a little taller before it starts getting the treatment, it had been growing in a pot for years, it needs to “stretch its legs” a little. Have you tried Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’? It has beautiful heart shaped purple leaves, glorious autumn colour, a very graceful habit, and can be kept in bounds by coppicing too, with the added benefit of enormous leaves if you cut it hard back each spring. I love it, and when I can work out where to plant one will be adding one here.

  7. Don’t castigate yourself Janet as you have put together a thoughtful and well illustrated post as ever. I like the look of your cotinus – I saw cotinus ‘Grace’ at a garden centre recently and was absolutely bewitched :) Hope that your black elder is not wayward but heeds your sweet whispers and that you and your guests enjoy the weekend.

    1. Hi Anna, thank you! I adore cotinus – not so much the flowers, but the leaves, and the fact that they are even bigger if you cut it hard back each year. The only plant with purple leaves I love more is Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. The black elder is still refusing to colour up but the weekend has been excellent so far, including lots of scrambling over rocks and exploring of caves along the shoreline. And we got a draw at Goodison!!

  8. Janet, you have a terrific variety of colors and textures filling out your autumn garden. I love the use of silvery leaves. Your Acanthus mollis is a beautiful green color, looks very healthy. Susie

    1. Thanks Susie, foliage was what first drew me in to gardening, and I still nurture a bit of an obsession with it. The silvery foliage is a newer departure for me, I didn’t really have the conditions for most silvery leaved plants in my previous garden, and I am really enjoying playing around with them in this one. I am very amused that the acanthus that was in hiding due to the leylandii is the one that is the most glossy. Tough love? I hope it carries on being so healthy in years to come.

  9. Hakonechloa macra is a grass I have come to love. Originally I had the yellow and green variety in a pot because I couldn’t find the right spot for it in the garden. But once it’s got the red autumn tints it’s lovely. Is yours the all green one? The silvery grasses give a real seaside feel.

    1. Hii Jessica, yes, mine is the all green version, which goes yellows and pale orange rather than red. I love the all-green mounds, it is one of my favourite plants. The stipa tenuissima was here when I moved, and self seeds around the place so I don’t think I will ever be without it now, but it works really well here, as you say, very seasidey (!).

  10. Hi Janet,

    I can’t remember if you have any Hellebores in this garden? Are there any signs of buds on any yet? I’ve seen some buds on the orientalis ones, but I believe they will be leaves. However my stinking Hellebore and Argutifolius do have flower buds – never seen either bloom before!

    Always love the foliage of California Poppy; it’s somehow cute with its little pink tips. Your Stipa still looks very green??? Mine at this time of year is pretty much just the fluffy seed heads, which have turned a washed-out fawn type colour.

    1. Hi Liz, some of the stipas – the ones that were smaller when I moved them – are pure buff now, and I have very few seedheads, but yes, the larger plants are still very green. Weird. As for hellebores, I’ve spotted a couple of buds on one of the ones I rescued from a mossy pot earlier in the year, but no signs of any on the Christmas rose that survived (I seem to have lost two, probably through not watering enough). I have hopes that some of the little seedlings I brought with me might flower next year, but nothing much to see yet.I still have argutifolias on my wishlist, but I’m still not entirely sure where to plant it, it gets pretty big, doesn’t it. Lovely looking plant though. I’m glad you will get to see yours flower before you leave!

  11. Your foliage has a lot of greys/blues –love the soft color. I have some California poppy seeds that I need to spread this winter, hoping they do better this year. Is your Acanthus in dry shade? I have lots of dry shade, maybe that would be a great addition.

    1. Hi Janet, the gresy and blues are a new thing for me, and I am really enjoying them too. The acanthus that is looking so glossy is in fairly deep shade but the soil is actually quite rich and has enough clay in it that it never really dries out. The other place it is growing really happily is in poor very well drained soil in full sun. Go figure!

  12. I love the thought of you wandering around your garden willing your plants on, Janet. I do just the same throughout the year for all sorts of reasons! But you have so much of interest in your garden in this time of year, even if they are all following their own pace. Once again, I love the image of all your grasses and sedges moving in the sea-breezes you have there. And the autumn tints are lovely.

    1. Thank you Wendy, its good to know I am not alone in my crazy plant-urging behaviours ;-) Grasses and sedges do work so well here, I am looking forward to adding to them – and to the day in years to come when the autumn colour is a more dramatic part of the overall picture.

  13. Hi Janet, sorry to be late responding to your foliage post, I love how you are putting together form and colour in your garden; and the post looks anything but hurried. I really appreciate your taking the trouble to join GBFD when you are so busy, thank you. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, thank you, I am loving having the opportunity to explore new plants and new combinations, and really wanted to join in again this month because foliage is so important to what I am trying to do here – happily our visitors always appreciate a good lie-in and an early night when they visit, so fitting it in wasn’t so difficult after all!

  14. Wonderful pictures. I really do think that autumn is the best time to appreciate plant foliage, especially for the various colours many of them provide. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, I agree, it is a wonderful time of year for foliage. Hope you are enjoying your reading!!

  15. Your elder still looks very elegant despite it’s refusal to change colour – I had one myself briefly but objected to all the seedlings [although in retrospect they may have been from an elder in the hedge ;( } so took it out and I can’t remember what it did in the autumn. Your grasses are such a good advert for themselves and I hope to include more her in the longer run. Do you expect your Californian poppies to overwinter OK? I sowed an old packet very late on and they have grown well but of course it was too late for them to flower – I shall be pleased if they survive the winter, then! Glad you enjoyed your w/e visitors and activities

    1. Hi Cathy, I do love the elder, even if it isn’t colouring up this year – there’s always next year! I do love the grasses, I know they can be over used and have become hideously trendy in recent years but nothing adds movement to a garden quite like they do, I hope you have fun adding some to your own garden. As for the poppies, they are a hardy annual so an autumn sowing (or self sowing) should mean some earlier flowers next year, so hopefully you will be enjoying poppies from early June?

  16. I am delighted to read that the art of conversing with plants is alive and kicking in your garden! I agree with you about grasses and sedges in exposed gardens – they celebrate the wilder weather and the sound is amazing. Beautiful photos – it is lovely to see Eschscholzia seedlings reminding us that summer will arrive again.

    1. I find that lots of plants require a good talking to! I’m not convinced that any of them listen, but it makes me feel better, though I’m sure it creates some interesting gossip in the village when I am caught in the act… Am so glad you get the grasses thing. The only thing better than grasses for good sound in a windy garden is bamboo, which I was going to plant but by the time I had re-used what I already had I had run out of room, but I do have a couple on the back garden.

  17. no wonder you are singing Janet you have some lovely foliage, you sound so happy, it’s wonderful your hard work has paid off and your garden is growing how you would like it with lots of promise for the future too, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I am happy, despite having lost quite a few of the plants I put in earlier in the year. Though I will have to get myself some new epimediums…

  18. What a lovely entry for foliage day! I agree that the combination of plants is quite delightful. The grasses and sedges work well mixed with the variegated foliage plants.

    1. Thank you! I love the way the garden is constantly in motion, with even the slightest of breezes.

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